It’s not always easy to play with an early or a big lead. Both Washington’s skipper Dusty Baker and Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg acknowledged as much after the Nats’ 14-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night in Chase Field.
Strasburg had a 4-0 lead before he took the mound, a 6-1 lead after two and a 9-1 lead after five innings. He was done after six innings and 99 pitches, earning his 15th win of the season. So how did he stay focused with the big lead?
“I mean, you can’t complain that’s for sure,” Strasburg told reporters.
“You just try to not read into it too much, you keep telling yourself there’s a lot of game left and you’ve just got to go out there and do your job.”
Baker said the fact that his hitters and starter stayed focused was the most impressive thing about the 19-hit, 14-run series opening win.
“The guys keep staying in the game,” he explained. “A lot of times, in games like that you’re not — at least me, I wasn’t very good in games like that, I was always envious of guys like Pete Rose and these guys that would play hard — I was playing hard, but I didn’t have the same concentration level, that’s the thing that stands out.
“Stras was sharp, not quite as sharp as usual, but sometimes it’s tough to pitch in a game like that, especially when you’re used to the opposition throwing their best games against him.”
Equally impressive, Baker said, was the fact that just four of the Nationals’ 19 hits were extra base hits, and none of them were home runs.
“We were hitting some line drives and first-to-thirds, and I mean this is how you sustain rallies,” Baker said.
“A lot of times the home run ball is a rally-killer. Even though you score a lot of runs, then you’ve got to start all over again and put the pitcher in the stretch.
“If you can get a bunch of base hits and keep the ball in play, that’s what you dream about, sustained rally. Boy, it’s been a long time since we scored that many runs, it’s been a long time since we scored anything close to that without a home run.”
Both the 19 hits and the 14 runs were season-highs for the Nats, who snapped a two-game slide and increased their lead in the NL East on a night which saw the Miami Marlins (5.0 games back) and New York Mets (7.5 games back) both lose.
“It was good for the guys to break out,” Baker said. “You knew coming in that [the Diamondbacks] had a tired bullpen and I’ve been in that situation, but everybody contributed, some guys had some real big nights and got some guys hopefully heating up.
“I know a lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you save some runs for tomorrow,’ but I’m trying to hope that they memorize how to do that.
“We were aggressive and we finally got some runs in the first inning, we jumped them in the first inning. So, it was kind of the ballgame.”
• We talked about the Nationals’ win, their deadline acqusition of Mark Melancon and more on Nats Nightly: